The beautiful Jan/Feb 2021 issue front cover design is the vision of printmaker and wallpaper designer Katherine Morris. She spoke to Tom Sykes about her inspiration for her gorgeous illustrations.
Katherine Morris’ detailed designs have brought a nuanced take on English outdoor classics – birds, moths, teasels and other wildlife – into the indoor world of wallpaper, lampshades, notebooks and fine fabrics.
At the roots of her artistic style lies an unaffected curiosity about her Shropshire surroundings. “I was very much a feral, free-range child,” recalls Katherine, who grew up in the small hamlet of Morton Corbet.
“We had a mushroom farm when I was little, at the bottom of the Wrekin – that was my family’s business. A lot of the summer holidays, my parents were busy with a business to run – they basically told me to ‘sort yourself out’.”
With her only sibling a brother six years her junior, a focus on the outdoors was the natural, or rather the only choice for Katherine. Whether it be mixing up ‘witches brew’ in storm drains, collecting flowers to press with her mother, or simply observing the wildlife around her - she formed a strong bond with the countryside from a young age.
“It’s something that’s ingrained in me in a way,” she says. “As a kid I had to observe things a lot – or else I’d have been really bored.”
Katherine’s enthusiasm for wildlife and the natural world is evident in her language, which strays often toward personifications – Long Tail Tits hang around in “a little crew”; whilst “underrated” courgette flowers are at their prettiest “when they’re sort of calling it a day” and snail on this issue’s front cover (who appears to be hanging on for dear life) – “looks a bit like a George”.She brings this sophisticated innocence to her designs; each plant or animal has its own quirky character. They are as friendly as they are quaint and could sit just as well in children’s storybooks.
By day, she’s able to pursue this passion too, working as an Environmental Manager for Severn Trent. But it’s through her own design business Hubbard & Reenie that she is able to fully express her artistic leanings, turning her nature-inspired drawings into beautiful homewares – although it beggars belief how she manages to balance being mum of two, hold down a full time job and run her own company on the side!
She admits there is no greater pleasure than seeing her lovely illustrations come off the rollers of the wallpaper printing machine – it’s her favourite part of the process but comes at a price. She has to invest heavily in her own creations in the hope that they will find a market via her website.
“I absolutely bloody love wallpaper” she exclaims. “It can transform a mundane and boring space into something amazing.”
She is a fan of the traditional, ‘surface-print’ method, which infuses each roll of Hubbard & Reenie wallpaper with a rich and tangible colour.
“If you invested in wallpaper you used to think it had to be there forever. To me, it feels like wallpaper should be one of those things which reflects your mood, how you feel about your home and the energy that you have. See, old tat is cool now. I loved old tat when old tat was actual tat that no one wanted.”
Supporting Katherine throughout are her family: children Ollie and Pippa, aged 11 and four, and her partner Ian. However, Katherine’s biggest backer has always been her grandmother, Nanny Rose, who sadly passed away in November.Having attended Art College herself, it’s no surprise she shared Katherine’s passion – and this issue’s cover is dedicated to her. “She would always be so excited by whatever I showed her – she definitely has the No.1 fan badge,” Katherine says.
As for the future? Whether it be on her own products, or by licensing designs to other manufacturers, Katherine hopes to keep creating content.
“I suppose I don’t like sitting still,” she says. Whatever direction she takes, it’s clear that right now her artistic talents are in full bloom.
“Drawing is ace. Drawing is something that, no matter what’s going on, it’s an avenue for escapism. Awful things might be happening in every other aspect of your life, but you can shut it all away by drawing. The thing that makes me really happy and proud is when something that I’ve drawn in one of those moments is celebrated by somebody having it in their home.That’s what makes me get up in the morning and feel good about all this.”